Turkish authorities working on details of normalization phase
Turkish authorities are working to determine the criteria that local health officials will follow when COVID-19-related restrictions start being eased on a provincial basis in March.
Provinces will be categorized as low, medium, high, or very high risk based on infection rates and the vaccination process.
Turkey will start to gradually normalize and emerge out of coronavirus restrictions as of March 1.
The authorities are presently setting up the criteria according to which provinces will be classified based on a risk assessment. Local pandemic boards will follow those standards when they move ahead with easing the restrictions.
Local health officials will also be presented with a list which will show what curbs could be eased under what circumstances.
Depending on the number of cases, vaccinations, hospitals’ capacity and intensive care units’ capacity, provinces will move between the risk categories.
In an individual province, decisions regarding a return to normal life will be uniform for all districts and not differ from one district to other. However, local quarantines may be imposed in the event of a spike in the number of coronavirus cases in a region, the officials said.
“I do not think the country is in a situation where a blanket lockdown is needed,” said Professor Deniz Çalışkan from the Health Ministry’s Science Board.
A full countrywide lockdown could be considered as a last resort any time, but it would be a very harsh decision, she said.
Çalışkan also noted that imposing a full lockdown for an individual province would be difficult given the fact that people are commuting between provinces for work.
Experts stressed that the public must be well informed about how the normalization process will work. People will be able to monitor the situation and decisions taken regarding restrictions in each province through the information the Health Ministry provides.
The normalization plan, which is scheduled to be implemented in March, will remain in place until the summer and a new scheme may be considered depending on the developments, according to the experts.
Meanwhile, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca warned of a significant increase in the number of COVID-19 cases in certain provinces.
“We need to stick to the virus measures more than ever at a time when we are talking about a return to normal life,” Koca wrote on Twitter on Feb. 22.
The Health Ministry on Feb. 22 released the second edition of a map which shows the number of cases per 100,000 people in each province on a weekly basis.
According to the latest data, covering between Feb. 15 and Feb. 21, the number of cases per 100,000 people was 68.2 up from the previous week’s 60.2 in Istanbul, whereas in the capital Ankara the corresponding figure was 35.39, inching down from 35.49.
However, in the Black Sea provinces of Samsun, Ordu, Giresun, Trabzon and Rize the number of cases per 100,000 people was above 200.